Something amazing happened over the weekend: Elizabeth Berkley, who once riled us with caffeine melodrama as Jessie Spano on “Saved by the Bell,” embraced a critical part of her past. She voiced support for the cult phenomenon of “Showgirls,” her wildly over-the-top 1995 bomb that has become arguably the campiest piece of '90s iconography. She gave a wonderful speech to a rapt LA audience, who rigorously salted their French fries in approval.
But not everybody can be as cool as Berkley. (Looking at you, Faye Dunaway.) Here are ten actors who've embraced the silly, dubious, or campiest movies in their filmography.
1. Jane Fonda, “Barbarella”
After “Barbarella,” Jane Fonda scored seven Oscar nominations, two wins, and a brand new reputation as one of the more strident celebrities of the '70s. It took her awhile to acknowledge the campy fun in “Barbarella,” the swingin' sci-fi sex adventure she made her then-husband Roger Vadim, but it happened. “For a long time, I couldn't look at it,” said Fonda on “60 Minutes.” “I thought that it was politically incorrect, you know… but I can look at it now and laugh at it, and find it very charming.”
2. Elizabeth Berkley, “Showgirls”
Berkley addressed a crowd at LA's Cinespia to discuss how she's finally embraced the phenomenon of her 1995 cult “Tonight is like this magical full-circle moment where I actually didn”t get to experience the sweetness of the screening with a crowd that embraced it. I wanted to thank you guys for giving me this gift of truly getting a full-circle moment of experiencing the joy with you because you guys and the love you have for this movie have made this the cult film that it is.”
3. Greg Sestero, “The Room”
How does one survive having been in “The Room,” the infamous 2003 Tommy Wiseau film dubbed “the worst movie ever made”? Ask Greg Sestero, who played the key role of Mark. He penned the book “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made,” and his insights are gold. His summary of the film is evidence enough that he has a firm grasp on why the movie is so ridiculous: “The Room is a drama that is also a comedy that is also an existential cry for help that is finally a testament to human endurance.”
4. Susan Sarandon, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is the rare camp classic that is successfully ridiculous, intentionally great, and downright confusing at times. It's all over the place, but star Susan Sarandon says she has nothing but fondness for it: “It's funny because journalists very often put me in a defensive position and assume that somehow I'm ashamed of being a part of it, and I'm not. I think it's a great, amusing film. When Tim came onstage, that was one of the most blistering, shocking, sexy entrances that has ever been on a stage. The film was supposed to be black and white until he comes down the elevator and you saw his red lips, and that would've been pretty cool.”
5. Piper Laurie, “Carrie”
Laurie may have been nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Brian De Palma's classic horror movie, but her over-the-top portrayal has become a camp favorite in the four decades since the film's release. The actress admits she envisioned “Carrie” as a black comedy when she first signed on, which helps explain her take on the character: a scenery-chewing zealot who utters lines like “And the Lord visited Eve with the curse, and the curse was the curse of blood!” with overblown conviction. Laurie's attendance at events like “Camp Midnight presents 'A Very Carrie Christmas'” shows she has a sense of humor about this ironic adoration.
6. Betsy Palmer, “Friday the 13th”
Palmer admitted she only took the role of Jason's deranged mother because she needed to buy a new car — “What a piece of shit!” she recalled thinking of the script — but the longtime TV and theater actress subsequently embraced the over-the-top character, attending horror conventions and frequently appearing on camera to discuss the role, which became her most famous of all time.
7. Nicolas Cage, “The Wicker Man”
Neil LaBute's famously campy remake has at least one defender in star/producer Nicolas Cage, whose unbelievably histrionic turn became the subject of numerous memes and a heavily-trafficked YouTube clip montage showcasing the film's most over-the-top moments (“Not the bees!”). Cage subsequently claimed that the film was misunderstood and stated in a 2013 interview that he and LaBute were totally in on the joke. “The fact that that movie has been so lambasted means there's an inner trembling and power to that movie,” he told the Guardian. “It has become an electromagnetic movie! And so I love it.”
8. Meryl Streep, “Death Becomes Her”
Meryl Streep has talked repeatedly about how “Death Becomes Her,” a non-hit of the early '90s, took aim at Hollywood vanity. She defends it often, even telling one journalist, “Everything I do is serious, even the hyperbolic comedies like 'Death Becomes Her.'”
9. Patty Duke, “Valley of the Dolls”
Maybe no one had a harder time coping with the fallout from a campy bomb than renowned actress Patty Duke, who spent decades dealing with the grim reception of “Valley of the Dolls,” the 1967 adaptation of Jacqueline Susann's sensational novel. “I always felt as if I was trying to redeem myself with each subsequent role,” Duke said. “I don't know when the embarrassment from it stopped or waned, but it was probably not until the '80s. I think what happened is, I finally wore myself out about it. You wake up one day and say, 'OK, I gotta find something else to worry about.'”
10. Michelle Pfeiffer, “Grease 2”
Take a look for yourself as the screen goddess reflects on “Cool Rider,” arguably the greatest solo dance moment in 20th century cinema.